‘Make personal information private’

The new leader of Sweden's Liberal Party, Jan Björklund, has called for restrictions on the amount of personal information about citizens the state makes public. In a speech to his party's conference, he also attacked Social Democrat leader Mona Sahlin for "hypocrisy", saying she owned her own home, but wanted to stop others from doing the same.

'Make personal information private'
Photo: Kristian Pohl

Björklund questioned whether it was reasonable that people could get access to information about their neighbours’ finances, background, school grades and health.

“The liberal position must be that the individual’s right to a private sphere should be protected,” he said in the speech at the Liberals’ conference in Västerås.

Björklund said a party committee would produce a new programme for personal integrity, although he said he had no ready answers for exactly where the line should go. Sweden’s principle of openness means it is easier than in many other countries to get information on individuals’ earnings and wealth, as well as other personal information.

It is not just a question of what private individuals can find out about other people, Björklund said, but also of how much the state should know about its citizens. He questioned the Finance Department’s proposal that information about people’s wealth should remain public, even after wealth tax is abolished.

“I’m looking forward to hearing the arguments,” he said, addressing Finance Minister Anders Borg.

Björklund also attacked the Social Democrats’ “hypocrisy” over the right of people to own their own homes. The Social Democrats have argued against the right of tenants to buy their homes.

“Mona Sahlin owns her row-house. [Social Democratic Party Secretary] Marita Ulvskog owns her apartment. Göran Persson owns his mansion. If it’s so important to stop people from owning their homes, why don’t they rent their own homes,” he asked.